Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Last Call For Conyers's Karma

Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers finally couldn't withstand the pressure to resign anymore and did the right thing...or was forced to, kicking and screaming.

Embattled Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, has announced Tuesday that he is retiring and has endorsed his son, John Conyers III to run for his seat. Conyers' lawyer confirmed that the retirement is effective immediately. 
"My legacy can't be compromised or diminished in any way by what we're going through now. This too shall pass," said Conyers on a local Michigan radio station Tuesday morning.

He added, "I want you to know that my legacy will continue through my children. I have a great family here and especially in my oldest boy, John Conyers III who incidentally I endorsed to replace me in my seat in Congress." 
Shortly after the announcement, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, took to the House floor to read a statement from Conyers. She said he asked her to read his statement announcing his decision and that he's notified House Speaker Paul Ryan, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder of his plans to step down. 
"Given the totality of the circumstance of not being afforded the right of due process in conjunction with current health conditions, and to preserve my legacy and good name, I am retiring. I hope my retirement will be viewed in the larger perspective of my record of service as I enter a new chapter," the statement from Conyers read.

But as politically useless as the Congressional Black Caucus has been over the last decade or so, they have a valid point when it comes to the double standard of Democrats not having the back of black lawmakers like Conyers compared to say, Sen. Al Franken.

Many CBC members see a double standard at play. They won't say the treatment of Conyers is racist, necessarily — and all express strong support for his alleged victims — but they think white politicians accused of similar misconduct like Blake Farenthold, Al Franken, Roy Moore and Donald Trump get a "benefit of the doubt" that black politicians don't enjoy.

Some members believe House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other party leaders moved too quickly in calling on Conyers to resign and should have let the process play out more, although they understand the pressure she was facing. And still another faction thinks Conyers' declining health and mental acuity after more than 52 years in Congress led to the debacle, despite evidence that Conyers allegedly had been harassing female staffers for years. 
There is also significant anger within the CBC, aimed at one of their own: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). Conyers was going to announce his retirement from Congress last Friday. Then Monica Conyers, the congressman's wife, and Jackson Lee got involved and stopped it from happening, said several Democratic lawmakers and aides. That decision dragged out the controversy for five days, although the delay ultimately allowed Conyers to endorse his son, John Conyers III, for his seat. Ian Conyers, the congressman's grand-nephew and a Michigan state senator, also may run, setting off an intrafamily battle.

Franken, by the way, has yet another accusation out against him today.

A former Democratic congressional aide said Al Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, three years before he became a U.S. senator. 
The aide, whose name POLITICO is withholding to protect her identity, said Franken (D-Minn.) pursued her after her boss had left the studio. She said she was gathering her belongings to follow her boss out of the room. When she turned around, Franken was in her face.

The former staffer ducked to avoid Franken’s lips. As she hastily left the room, she said, Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.” 
“He was between me and the door and he was coming at me to kiss me. It was very quick and I think my brain had to work really hard to be like ‘Wait, what is happening?’ But I knew whatever was happening was not right and I ducked,” the aide said in an interview. “I was really startled by it and I just sort of booked it towards the door and he said, ‘It’s my right as an entertainer.’” 
The former staffer, who was in her mid-20s at the time of the incident, said she did not respond to Franken.

That was a bridge too far for Senate Democrats, who called on Franken en masse to resign, and tomorrow he is expected to do just that.

A Democratic official who has spoken to Al Franken and key aides says Franken will resign his Minnesota Senate seat on Thursday, the official tells MPR News.

The official spoke to Franken and separately to Franken's staff. A staff member told the official that Franken had gone to his Washington home to discuss his plans with family.

MPR News agreed to withhold the official's name because the official wanted to give Franken the chance to talk about his decision in his own words.

Franken faced a cascade of calls Wednesday from fellow Democrats and other political allies to leave office in response to multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

So in the same week, within 48 hours of each other, both Conyers and Franken are gone.  I did say both had to go, but of course I also believe the same holds true for Roy Moore and Donald Trump.

And I know the argument, "If only Democrats resign then eventually there will be nothing but Republicans in Congress."  I'm sorry, but morality shouldn't be wholly dependent on the cynicism of political expediency.  That's what Republicans do.

Breaking The Silence, Finally

In a move sure to upset Donald Trump, TIME has not named Donald Trump person of the year in 2017.

TIME has named the Silence Breakers, the individuals who set off a national reckoning over the prevalence of sexual harassment, as its 2017 Person of the Year. 
The magazine's editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal revealed the selection Wednesday on TODAY along with the cover, a composite group photo that includes actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler and a woman whose face cannot be seen. 
"The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover … along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s," Felsenthal said in a statement. 
The Silence Breakers emerged amid burgeoning allegations of sexual misconduct and assault by film executive Harvey Weinstein. As his list of accusers swelled, so did the number of people who spoke up to expose dozens of other famous individuals in Hollywood, politics, journalism and other industries as sexual predators.

Actor Kevin Spacey, journalist Charlie Rose, comedian Louis CK and U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota were among the high-profile names snared in an ever-growing web of alleged sexual harassers. Last week, former TODAY anchor Matt Lauer was also accused of sexual misconduct. 
The women, and men, who broke their silence to share their stories of victimization gave traction to the #MeToo campaign, which took off on social media and fueled a worldwide discussion on just how endemic sexual harassment has been. 
Felsenthal noted the hashtag, which he called "a powerful accelerant," has been used millions of times in at least 85 countries.

This was a good call from TIME.  Women are coming forward now and telling their stories, and we should believe them.  I have friends and family who have similar stories, and who have kept the stories to themselves for various reasons, most of all the victim blasting America does to anyone who comes forward to claim a powerful man has abused them.

Maybe going forward that will finally be different.

Here's the thing though, the #MeToo hashtag movement was started a decade ago by a black activist named Tarana Burke.  It gained steam only when actor Alyssa Milano mentioned it, giving credit to Burke for her long years of work in Brooklyn helping women.  The movement was there, it just wasn't visible.

Oh, and using Ollivander's Rule ("After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things. Terrible! Yes. But great.") Donald Trump did come in second. To several women who claimed powerful men abused them.

There's a lesson there if America and the world chooses to learn it.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

In GOP fantasy land, Trump fires Robert Mueller and then has Jeff Sessions appoint a special prosecutor to go after Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  The fact that I can say "yes, that's still certainly possible" says worlds about what kind of gross chancre Trump is on the ass of humanity. In reality however, Mueller is still making his three-pronged attack.  

As I've said several times, the Mueller probe is focusing on three things: Russian collusion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice covering up the previous two crimes. We haven't talked about the Russian Money laundering angle much in the last month or so with the indictments, but Mueller is definitely looking into that.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for financial information on President Donald Trump and his associates as part of the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

Multiple news outlets report that Germany’s largest bank received a request from Mueller’s team several weeks ago for data on money and financial transactions made by Trump and his associates.

It’s still unclear which specific individuals Mueller requested information on and whether the president himself was one of them. One of Trump’s personal lawyers, Jay Sekulow, disputes the reports. “We have confirmed that the news reports that the Special Counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the President are false,” he said in a statement. “No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.”

Trump’s family has relied Deutsche Bank for past business loans: The real estate company owned by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and top White House adviser, finalized a $285 million loan from Deutsche Bank one month before election day as part of a refinancing package for one of Kushner’s company’s properties in Times Square.

The bank has also been linked to criminal activity. In January 2017, Deutsche Bank received $630 million in penalties because it was involved in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme that involved the bank’s Moscow, New York, and London branches, CNN reports.

Deutsche Bank has long been Moscow's major bank of choice when it comes to high-end money laundering,  and the bank has been one of the Trump Organization's major go-to partners on real estate deals. If Trump was getting payoffs in the form of real estate loans that never got paid back through the bank from Moscow, Mueller would definitely want to know.

I've also seen the theory that that Flynn's single charge of lying to the FBI means that's all there is and Mueller doesn't have anything else that can stand up in a court of law. The right certainly is dancing around, saying that this is proof there's no collusion, because otherwise Flynn would have been charged with the kitchen sink.  I think that's possible but unlikely.  Rather, as Preet Bharara says, Mueller's playing his cards close to the vest because he doesn't want to tip his hand yet.

So what does Bharara think could be going on? One possibility, he suggests, is that Mueller doesn’t have anything else on Flynn that might stand up in court: “People need to really consider the possibility that this might be it.”

But Bharara also suggests another scenario: that Mueller is “holding back on other charges to which Michael Flynn will plead guilty if and when they form the basis of charging some other folks.”

That is — certain potential charges against Flynn could implicate others in Trump’s orbit as well, and Mueller’s team just isn’t ready to make those charges yet (and might never be).

This case, of course, could be rather different than Bharara’s own past prosecutions. For one, Mueller’s potential endgame might be an impeachment referral rather than a high-profile court trial. Additionally, Mueller could be concerned about Trump’s pardon power — perhaps he’s holding off on some potential charges against Flynn so he could bring them later, in case of a pardon.

This is almost certainly the correct scenario.  When the rest of the charges come, they will be manifest. But until Mueller makes his final recommendations to Congress and the Justice Department, I still beleive it isn't over for Flynn.  Maybe he's not singing like a bird, maybe he is. But it's not over for him.

Not by a long shot.


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